ABC Seminar: The visual representation of mental illness from the art of face reading to modern brain imaging: Three vignettes
Prof. Pietikäinen delivers a fascinating tour to the imagery of mental illness, from historical face-reading to modern brain imaging.
Petteri Pietikäinen, History of Science and Ideas, University of Oulu
Abstract: The visual representation of mental illness has a history going back to the early modern era. A historical study of the psychiatric use of visualization can serve as a means to understand how physicians and medical scientists believed visualization, especially photography, could represent the objective reality of mental illness. In addition to their frequent use in psychiatric textbooks, visual representations of mental illness were commonplace in psychiatric advertising beginning with the “psychopharmacological revolution” of the mid-1950s.
In my presentation I will demonstrate three different ways to visualize mental illness:
1) early 19th-century physiognomy, which revolved around the assumption that outer appearance and especially facial traits of individuals disclosed aspects of their personality; 2) the use of photography to facilitate psychiatric diagnoses, to classify symptoms, and to suggest correlations between body types and mental dispositions (ca. 1850s onwards); and 3) the commercial use of photography in drug advertisements in the Anglo-American psychiatric journals beginning in the mid-1950s.
By the late 1980s, the visual representation of mental illness had changed from facial traits and body types to representations of the interior of the brain. Encouraged by modern brain imaging technologies, a new approach to visual representation of mental illness emerged. One could say that these imaging technologies continue the visualizing tradition even if the object of the “optic gaze” is now below the surface of the skin.
Coffee and pulla will be served after the talk.